There is nothing new about the notion of automating (often mundane) tasks to improve efficiency and save time. For many, this stops at knowing some excel tricks – though this is something I wouldn’t underestimate. However, we believe that for something that can seem quite a dry topic, automation is actually a deeply creative process. The tools available to Digital Marketers have become so advanced that, combined with applications such as Excel and Google Sheets, we are able to exhibit immense control over our paid media accounts and create new processes that organise our day-to-day work.
Every day we are asking the question: is there a more efficient way of doing this? Whether it’s learning a shortcut in Excel or restructuring an entire Adwords account, this continual drive for improvement and the technology that underlies it makes paid media a very exciting space. What’s more, automation is greatly beneficial to small businesses with little time to spare, as well as large teams looking to strategically grow an account.
The power of dashboards
Our team at Curated have been particularly excited about dashboards since getting our hands on Supermetrics. You can use Supermetrics as a Google Sheets add-on to pull data from a range of channels — channels like Adwords, Bing, and Facebook. Even better, you can set these data queries to refresh on an hourly basis, allowing you to create real-time dashboards that can be shared with your clients. Previously, if you wanted an update on your business’ performance across these channels, you’d have to access each of them separately, download the relevant data, and collate. It could be quite tedious and time-consuming — especially when done on a daily basis.
Another great benefit of setting up these dashboards is they can improve transparency; the client gets a window into the current performance of an account whenever they need it. It shouldn’t replace regular reporting but it can go a long way to ensuring everyone’s on the same page. This is particularly useful for clients that require greater flexibility, helping them see what’s working and what’s not at any given time. We’ve even pulled in data with SEO rankings and highlighted SEO terms for some clients.
Likewise, a particularly useful dashboard we’ve created is an auto-updating budget tracker. By pulling in cost data from our accounts, set to update daily, we can see at a glance whether we have the budget to spend or need to cut back. Using Google Sheets’ notification settings you can even receive email updates whenever a client’s projected spend has surpassed budget. As the power of these tools grows we can begin to build centralised dashboards: PPC command centres that can alert you to problems and areas of growth in one view.
If you become confident using Adwords’ ‘automate’ tool, you can create rules to automate certain optimisations. For example, you can create a rule that pauses ad groups when cost or cost/conversion of an ad group has reached your threshold. You may even want to create a rule to increase campaign budget by X or X% if it:
a) is limited by budget AND
b) has a Cost/Conversion below Y (a suitably low figure)
This essentially ensures your most successful campaigns are not restricted. A word of warning, however: we’d advise against setting up account wide rules before you have extensively tested them. The logic of Adwords’ rule system can be surprising on first use. It may seem fairly self-explanatory, but you’ll need to plan these in advance to avoid any nasty surprises. A good example of this is overlaying rules that increase bids of a campaign or keyword. You may wish to increase a keyword bid by 20% if its average position is below 2; adding further rules that affect the same keyword can cause these bid increases to stack which, at scale, can become difficult to manage.
The necessity of automation
Paid media can be a very reactive environment involving many moving parts, and lots of work that ‘can’ be done without quite being a priority. Saving time and finding efficiencies is not a matter of freeing yourself up for a tea-run; it’s about freeing as much time as you can to make strategic improvements to an account. There are time-consuming tasks that need to be carried out regularly that will nevertheless fail to add as much value as top-level optimisations to an account. This doesn’t mean that you can just prioritise the latter, however, as there is a long-term effect of not maintaining an account. The solution is to be continually looking for ways to make these tasks more efficient.
The scale of the returns can vary considerably. You may save yourself 10 minutes a day on Excel to a week’s worth of account checks and optimisations from just a few hours of automation.
It really isn’t just about time, though; when executed correctly automated processes can limit the effect of human error. On large accounts, even with regular checks, it’s still possible to make mistakes from time to time. An essential part of automation is establishing processes that bring these to the forefront as quickly as possible.
Some things to consider
It’s easy to get carried away with plans to automate as much as you can; however, there are some important considerations to be had first. To put it another way: not everything that can be automated should be.
You also need to be confident about how your automation is set up. When setting up a dashboard, or using Adwords’ automate function, you need be thorough and check your work before you rely on it. There is a worry that automation can lead to complacency if these processes are not regularly checked and reviewed. Ironically, by automating badly you will spend far more time correcting than you may have initially saved.
Fortunately, this is not a problem at Curated. If you’re interested in any of the ideas here such as our automated dashboards, get in touch – we’d be more than happy to help.